Buddhist writer and teacher David Loy reported being briefly detained and issued a summons by police while taking part in a direct action protest with the group Extinction Rebellion (abbreviated XR) in Denver, Colorado on Saturday 20 April, along with five other protesters. The activities coincided with Extinction Rebellion events around the world, most notably ongoing activities in London, England.
At the event on Saturday, Loy and five others sat in a roadway blocking traffic until police removed them. Lisa Widdekind, who sat with Loy, commented that, “Speaking for myself, I’d say there’s a lot of relief over the outcome mixed with joy that we accomplished what we set out to and hopefully added our voices to the outcry for the transformation that needs to happen.” (Facebook)
Loy explained that while the small group blocked the road, “. . . others handed out cupcakes and cookies while explaining to the drivers why we were doing it. From what I could see, they didn’t seem too bothered, and perhaps some of them even supported us. In any case, the police were very efficient [and respectful!], so the blockage was not very long. I’m inspired by what has happened in London this week. Here in Colorado we need a lot more than six people…” (Facebook)
Extinction Rebellion was founded in England in May 2018 and seeks to use nonviolent resistance to raise awareness and directly challenge human activities known to drive climate change. “We want (politicians) to treat it with the same sense of urgency. Because, we have read the science, and we understand the science,” Extinction Rebellion Denver spokesperson Rick Visser said. (CBS)
Loy, a long-time environmental activist and author of Ecodharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis (Wisdom Publications 2019) and A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency (Wisdom Publications 2009) wrote after the events:
The biggest question for me these days is: what should we do if and when we realize that “business as usual” — including all the usual, acceptable political channels [elections, contacting politicians, citizen initiatives, etc.] — will only lead to disaster? As some have pointed out, the available legal channels for dissent aren’t working because “the system isn’t broken, it’s fixed” — it’s working the way it’s supposed to, to absorb our dissatisfaction and protests without ever addressing the fundamental issue and making the changes that are necessary if we are to avoid or minimize global catastrophe.
We need to keep in mind that the people who control the present economic/political system are also the ones who benefit the most from it. It’s very difficult for them to see the roots of the problem — after all, that system is working very well for them, isn’t it? So they focus on the short-term [quarterly profits, re-election] and largely ignore the greater long-term challenges …
Not paying our taxes won’t do enough, at least not quickly enough. The government has well-established ways of responding, with various legal maneuvers that after some years end up garnishing wages or seizing one’s property.
So we can’t simply work within the present system, but must challenge it, shake it up.
For me, that is our collective koan today. So can we avoid “inconvenience”? I don’t say that what XR is doing is the best possible response, but right now I don’t have a better one. And the time for us to get our act together is very, very short. (Facebook)
Speaking after an earlier Extinction Rebellion event in Denver, Visser said, “We’re having conversations that we didn’t have last year. The frequency is increasing; it’s not just occasional actions. And it’s going to be ramping up throughout the year.” (Westword)
Extinction Rebellion events are planned to continue internationally at least until 29 April. So far, they have engaged in a variety of actions to broaden awareness and pressure lawmakers, from “die-ins” in government buildings and public spaces to a disco dance party in Denver and poetry read by actress Emma Thompson.